Sunday, May 24, 2009

5.24.09 Palma de Mallorca

I’ve found that something that bothers me on the cruise ship. When we go out onto the main decks by the swimming pool there are a few European men who, instead of wearing a regular swimming suit, wear what I call “Man Panties.” Gross.

It’s Sunday today and Melba and I got up early to head out to Church. Last night, I looked online for a ward thinking that there was no possible way we would find one in Palma de Mallorca. I was partially right, I didn’t find one – I found four. It longer than expected to have the ship cleared by local authorities so instead of leaving the boat around 9 and using the bus and our feet to get to Church, we took a cab. €14.05 to get to Church and we even made it on time.

After Sacrament Meeting was over we were in the foyer talking to a few people. We talked to the missionaries and I was talking to a convert from Nigeria who had been on the island for 3 years. He works at a restaurant in a hotel. He was converted 4 years ago in Nigeria and is trying to get back there. We then met a guy, Bill, from the States who travels all over the world for his job, but spends his summers in Palma de Mallorca – where he boss lives for the summer. Then we met 2 people, Vaughn and Ben, from our cruise – Vaughn, the father, was taking his 18-year-old son on a 20 day cruise (they did the other 10-day excursion covering the Eastern part of the Med before this 10-day leg) before he – the son – goes to BYU. As we spoke, I asked Bill which direction we should start walking to get back into town. We weren’t that far and I figured that we could all walk back. Bill offered the 4 of us (Melba, me, Vaughn and Ben) a ride into town. Hard to turn that down.

As we got in the car, Bill offered to take us to a castle on a hill – it is the only perfectly round castle in the world. Um, really hard to turn that down. Bill then said that after the castle he would drive us to the cathedral (really big, built in 1600’s) and we would be able to walk from there back to the ship. This was very generous of him and I asked if there was anything we could do to repay him – he said to just repay the favor to someone else. As we drove, I started asking Bill about his work. He provides security to a rather wealthy businessman – we’re talking a net worth well into the 10 digit range – as he (Bill’s boss) travels the world to the different businesses he owns. Most of these businesses are in Latin America – Bill therefore spends Fall through Spring travelling in that region and lives on the island during the summer while travelling with his boss on his private yacht (153 feet) around Europe. It sounds like a cool job, but the more we talked to him I realized that it’s something that would be fun the first time, and then it would turn into work – meaning it’s not like travelling for vacation.

We got to the castle and Bill let us out of the car to walk around. (I think Bill had work to do and didn’t mind waiting for us). This castle was really pretty and gave amazing views of the city. No charge to get in or climb up to the top. We walked around and talked to Vaughn and Ben for about 10 minutes and then went back to the car. We could’ve stayed there for easily 45-60 minutes, but we didn’t want to keep Bill waiting. We got to the cathedral shortly thereafter and thanked Bill for being so kind to us. Perhaps this was our blessing for going to Church.

The cathedral was built from about 1300-1600 (yes, it took 300 years to build) and it is really big. There is a museum that has many artifacts pertaining to the museum, but it was closed. In fact, most everything is closed on Sunday around here. Mass was going on when we got inside so we couldn’t walk around. When mass ended, we started roaming around and looking at everything – lots of stained glass windows and statues. A second mass was starting and we decided to stay and watch. We didn’t ‘participate’ per se, but we did enjoy being there from a cultural perspective. And, of course, we didn’t understand a single word that was being said. Mass ended and we did some more walking around the cathedral, but it was closing and they hurried us out.

The Cathedral at Palma de Mallorca

Outside the Cathedral at Palma de Mallorca

Outside of the cathedral were some picturesque staircases and walking paths that seemed to be a part of the cathedral grounds. We listened to a very talented guitarist play classical music while we took pictures and strolled across the grounds. Then we began the long walk back to the ship. Bill had pointed out to us the walking path that would lead back to the ship and after a little bit of roaming, we figured out where we needed to go. This was a really fun walk – lots of palm trees and it was right along the port. There are about a million sail boats of all sizes in the port here and it was fun to walk by them and see where they are all from. We could see the ship from the cathedral and I thought it would take about 15-20 minutes to get there on foot. I was way off – it would have taken about 45 minutes had we walked and not stopped.

Walk back from the Cathedral

We did have to stop a few times – my feet still hurt from all of the walking we did yesterday and it got kinda hot and we saw a gelato shop and well, had to stop again. Amazingly good gelato and it was dirt cheap – Melba got 3 scoops for €2 and I got 4 scoops for €2.50. We sat on a bench looking out over the port and ate gelato. It was really fun. I try my best to enjoy moments like that – I know that they won’t last long and I won’t get to experience them again – but it seems that every night when I sit down to write a journal about the day I reflect on them, wish I could do it again, and wonder if I really appreciated it while it was happening.

As we got back to the port we began talking to another couple on the ship who had walked back from the cathedral as well. (Everyone is really friendly around here). Yesterday the woman had her purse stolen in Barcelona – I felt really bad for them. She was being really careful while they were walking around to make sure nobody snatched it from her. But while they were sitting on a bench she took it off of her shoulder, somebody came up to ask directions (as a distraction) and someone else came up from behind and grabbed her purse. Someone from a distance saw this happen and yelled at the couple from a distance – the woman tried to run after the guy, but he went into an underground garage and disappeared. They were able to go to a Police station and get the paperwork necessary to get back on the boat and cancel their credit cards. I don’t think she lost anything valuable (everyone leaves their passports on the ship), but I’m sure this was a real downer for their trip. Melba and I did our best to try and make her feel better – but I don’t think it helped much. I’m glad that we travel with Camelbacks (there nothing valuable inside for anyone to grab anyway) and have all of our valuables in a money belt. While we are still vulnerable, I feel like we have taken enough precautions that we don’t need to worry about someone getting our money or credit cards. I also know to watch out for thieves if a local comes to ask directions or something – that’s usually how they distract tourists for a robbery.

Interesting note: It is 5:35pm local time as I write this. All aboard for this port was 5:30. The captain just made an announcement that all of the passengers and crew are aboard and we will be leaving port. This is interesting to me because we haven’t left this early in any other port we’ve been in. We’ve always left at least an hour after the all aboard time. I wonder if it’s because of legal issues, replenishing items onto the ship, or if it’s because there were passengers that we had to wait for. Hmm. I’m just curious. Melba and I try to get back to the boat about 90 minutes before the all aboard time because we don’t want to miss the boat and we never know how long it will take to get back. There could be traffic, a parade (there was one in Barcelona yesterday) or a gelato stand which could all delay us getting back. Even if I knew the ship would wait for everyone before it left, I wouldn’t change that plan – I’m just curious to know how long the boat waits for people until they decide to leave without them.

Dinner was delicious tonight. We arrived around 6:30 and the place was mostly dead. We got a table to ourselves today simply because there weren’t enough people to fill the 2 other seats. While the service has been magnificent since we got on board, our waiter tonight was by far and away the best. He was very cheerful and friendly. When we finished our soup (each meal has appetizer, soup, entrée, and dessert – in that order) Melba commented that hers was absolutely delicious – our waiter said, “Do you want me to bring you another one?” Of course. He looked at me and asked if I wanted another bowl (I had duck and sausage gumbo, Melba had a chilled melon soup) – I didn’t, but asked if he could bring me some meatballs. Melba had them for her appetizer and said they were delicious – and he brought me out some. Very cool guy.

The show tonight was spectacular. A married couple from France did acrobatic dancing – where he holds her in the air while she twists her body all sorts of ways that make everyone else cringe – and magic tricks. Some of the tricks were unbelievable – literally. We went to the 8pm show and decided to head back to the 10pm show just to see if we can figure out how they do it.

Something that I will miss about the cruise is coming back to our room after dinner and having towel animals on our bed. Each day the creations grow increasingly more impressive. Yesterday we had a lobster and today we had a pig – and the room attendants put Melba’s sunglasses on the pig. Perhaps when people come visit us in Austin (hint, hint) we will have some ready in the guest bedroom.

The Towel Pig

Tomorrow is another sea day so there’s no point in going to bed early. On Tuesday we will be in Tunis – neither of us has been there before and I don’t think we’ll ever get a chance to go back anytime soon. The itinerary schedule that the ship gave us says that “vendors can be pushy” – I took that to mean that this port may be Egypt all over again. We decided that we weren’t going to explore this city on our own. We paid to have a tour called “The Best of Tunis” which will include ruins, a museum, and sightseeing in a town known for rows of white walled houses with blue roofs. The guided excursions that the ship offers are expensive and it seems that Melba and I have pretty much done what they offer – but for less than half the cost – on our own. The only real difference is that we use public transportation and/or feet instead of a bus. Tunis will be different, though. I don’t feel comfortable going around there by ourselves.

It’s time to get some pictures ready to upload, post this blog and then go to the 10pm magic show and try to figure out how those tricks are done.

It’s now almost midnight and we’re back from the second show – we figured out how most of the tricks are done. That said, the second show was more impressive than the first because we were really able to see the showmanship in the two performers. We walked around the promenade on Deck 3 after the show and then went up to the upper deck and looked at the stars. Melba wanted me to be ‘romantic’ – but I don’t/can’t do that. I decided to go back to the room and she decided to stay up on the deck and look at the stars. I left the deck and went into the dining room (you have to go through there to get to the elevators) and saw some desserts – “perhaps this will be romantic,” I thought. I brought two of them out to the deck to Melba. I said something like, “Excuse me, Ma’am” in a deep voice and it kind of freaked her out – but she smiled when she saw me with desserts. The only problem was that these desserts were gross – and I mean they were completely unfit for human consumption. I felt bad, but Melba still thought it was sweet. We went into the dining room and Melba grabbed some chocolate cake and I grabbed some ice cream.

Tonight I get to sleep and not have to wake up early. But before I sign off, here are some pictures from Barcelona that I think you will enjoy:

Melba with a Chicken

Look at the name of this plant


Julie said...

I'm glad you are getting in lots of church!

Carrie said...

I am loving this journal, guys! What an awesome trip!! Luke feels a new bond with y'all, since he visited Mallorca as a teenager when his parents sent him to visit some German friends who have a summer home there. It looks and sounds like an amazing place. Barcelona sounds incredible too. Did they allow pictures in the cathedral with the forested ceiling? I'd love to see that.

I don't want to steal anyone's thunder, so I'll just say: after a certain exciting phone call from Moey yesterday, we're checking their blog every few hours, and maybe you should be too! :)